Dear Willa

Dear Willa, a letter for the future mothers of the world

Mother's Day is around the corner, and while it is supposed to be a time to reflect upon our mothers, I wanted to take a moment to consider the future mothers of the world.  To that end, I wanted to write this letter to my daughter.  She's only four and honestly won't understand most of this for decades to come, but I hoped that it might reach some other future mothers out there, some who may be wondering just what it's like to be a mother.

Dear Willa,

Though you may choose to not have any children of your own, I hope that you become a mother figure in someone's life.  Mothering, after all, has little to do with genetics or family ties and everything to do with love, empathy, compassion, and most importantly courage.

It's not easy to be a mother. 

Beyond the workload, beyond providing the necessities for survival, mothering takes an immense emotional and spiritual strength.  Being a mother figure isn't just cooked meals and washed clothes.  Being a mother means caring for a soul that isn't your own, helping it to blossom and grow into something more than yourself.

You will cry. 

Sometimes because of the hurtful things said to you.  Sometimes because you feel like you can't do enough.  And sometimes because you feel like you simply have nothing left to give.  Your tears are not alone.  They are joined by an ocean of tears shed by mothers for thousands of years before ... and thousands of years to come.

You will fear. 

I didn't understand what it truly meant to be afraid until I had you.  The fears hit hard, run deep, and will try to overwhelm you.  Some of the fears are rational - fearing what might happen if we get separated in a store, for instance.  Some are less so -  fear of a faceless future relationship with someone who may abuse you, who may not respect or appreciate you, who may try to convince you that you are less than the amazing person you are.

Fear is a lot like a nightmare.  It's a product of a naughty imagination, one that gleefully takes every worst-case scenario and spins them together until the skies burn, the world cracks, and all life as we know it dies away.  Don't let it win.  Don't let the what ifs and it could happens destroy what you have now in this moment.  Don't let your fear ever stop you from doing something because I promise you, though bad things happen, your fears are almost always worse than reality.  And don't let your fear stop your children from doing something.  You can't always keep them safe, you can't always protect them, and that's okay.

You will love. 

A kind of pure selfless love that makes you believe in magic.  It's the kind of love that changes you deep inside, the kind of love that pushes you to become a better person every day, to grow stronger if only to lift those around you, to share all that you have and all that you are.  I hope that you experience this kind of profound love many times in your life - with friends, with family, with those who will love you the same way.

You will know awe. 

Not the kind of awe you feel when you meet someone famous.  Not the kind of awe you experience when standing on a mountain peak.  You will be in awe of the power of a child.  Their innocence, their wonder, their utter joy at living will bring tears to your eyes.  Never be ashamed of those tears.  There are far too few shed in this world for those moments of purity and peace.  Instead, allow your child to be a child, to revel in those moments of sweet discovery and surprise and perhaps, if you're lucky, some of your inner child will spark to life once more and allow you to see the true wonders of the world.

You will find courage.

There are always reasons to not do something.  Most of those reasons stem from fear.  Don't let that stop you.  Being a mother is difficult, but through difficulty we find strength.  By overcoming fear, we gain courage.  The courage to stand proud beside our children.  The courage to show them what it means to stand for the weak, to give without hesitation, to fight for what is right even when we fight alone.  The courage to be cruel to be kind, to withstand the hurt to ensure a better future, to endure the hard times so we can all flourish in the good times.

I hope you become a mother someday, whether you choose to have children or not.  And while it may occasionally seem like you're alone and the weight may be too much, know that I'm there for you.  That we are all there for you, mothers across races and religions, across borders and boundaries.  We know what you're going through as we've gone through it ourselves and we will share your pain, your fear, your joy, and your courage.


My daughter and I at the lake

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